Last September, I called Burnout 3: Takedown one of the best titles of the year thanks to its gameplay and its redefinition of the racing genre. I still happen to hold to that feeling. In fact, if I’m having a bad day or am in-between articles, I’ll still fire up this title and get a race to two in. But I’m not the only one that held that view; it was universally regarded by the press as a classic. So you can just imagine what a large hill its sequel had to climb to equal or supplant its popularity. Perhaps that’s reason behind one of its new features and its more aggressive title. Start your engines, because we’re getting ready to dish out a little Burnout: Revenge.
Many of the same features from Takedown return in Revenge, although there are a number of tweaks to the format to make it stand out from its predecessor. One of the more significant changes made to the format is the protection from non-racing vehicles traveling in your direction. As players of the previous title were quite aware, it could sometimes get hairy to weave in and out of going and oncoming traffic without inevitably running into a car or a truck and dropping behind your competitors. You no longer have to worry about this, thanks to a new feature known as Traffic Checking. Seemingly created as a defensive measure, Traffic Checking allows you to run into small and mid-sized vehicles that happen to be going in the same direction you are without suffering any damage to your car. Essentially, you’re knocking these obstacles out of your way as you drive down the road (which would be a great ability to have during rush hour!) You can also turn this around and use it in an offensive manner, sending these vehicles hurtling into your competitors. There are only two caveats with this new system: First, you won’t be able to check large objects like buses, vans or trailers out of the way, and second, you can’t check oncoming traffic.
Another change made to the game is the entire track layout. Burnout 3’s courses were huge, covering a large amount of real estate. In fact, some Grand Prix races connected many of the previous stages you’d driven through, making a massive track. Now imagine that kind of level, only two to three times larger. It might not seem possible, but Revenge accomplishes this task with shortcuts and vertical levels. Every single stage has at least two different paths that can be taken to the finish line. For instance, a number of these will take you through narrow alleyways or off road trails; still others will be ramps that launch you across gaps to atypical driving real estate. You can literally choose to follow out the direction of this alternate route, or leap back onto the main pathway as you see fit, which gives players a large amount of flexibility as to how they want to play. It also gives drivers an additional tactical weapon in the form of the vertical takedown, where you literally land your car atop another, immediately destroying it and giving you a significant amount of boost.
Speaking of takedowns, there are two twists that have made destroying cars a little different this time around. I’m sure that vets of Takedown often placed a computer opponent firmly in their sights if they were run into traffic or a wall during a race. The first opportunity you got to give them a little payback, you took with relish and it felt good, right? Well, that emotion has actually been captured with the concept of the Revenge Takedown. Anytime you’re knocked out of a race by an opponent, their car is designated with a red icon letting you know that you have a new rival. Eliminating that car provides you with a significant amount of boost and increases your rating points on that race (more about the rating in a bit). The other major change to the game comes in the form of crashbreakers, which are no longer solely restricted to Crash mode. Once you’ve unlocked them in the race events, you can intentionally detonate your car if you’re taken out. With good timing and a dose of aftertouch, you can take out your vehicular assailant and some of your competition.
The World Tour as it was known in Takedown has had a bit of a facelift; while you will inevitably make your way over to Europe and Asia, the race events are more emphasized instead of the idea of traveling around the world. Some of the classic ones from Takedown return, such as the standard Race mode where you sprint for the finish line and Road Rage, where you try to take out as many cars as you can within the time limit provided. Burning Lap and Grand Prix are exactly the same, with you trying to beat the clock and complete the most races in medal contention respectively. The Eliminator mode from the previous title has been modified to eliminate the last car after every thirty seconds, which makes these races much faster and much more frantic as time runs out. You’ve also got access to a mode called Traffic Attack, where you use the Traffic Checking ability I previously mentioned to add seconds to the clock and extend your run on a closed course.
Every single event takes new factors into play when determining your measure of success. First of all, every single player is judged by their Revenge rank, which is essentially a measure of how dangerous a driver you are. You start out as an unknown, which literally marks you as harmless, and you have to establish yourself as a threat to the Burnout world to access new events. This is done thanks to the event rating that measures how wild your driving is in any given course. Catching air, checking cars and taking out opponents, among other things adds to your event rating, which can literally be raised to the “Awesome” rank. If you manage to pickup a gold medal, your ranking will be upgraded to “Perfect” and you’ll receive 5 stars towards upgrading your Revenge rank. Score a silver and it stays the same; get a bronze and you’ll actually lose a star. It’s these subtle changes that make Burnout: Revenge a little more complex as you’re ripping up the streets.
Crash Mode returns as well, although it has undergone similar modifications. The most apparent one is in the launch bar that starts off every crash event. Similar to golf games or kicking meters in football titles, you have to set an initial launch speed and trigger the launch by carefully timed button presses along a launch bar. Screw up your timing and you’ll wind up crawling along the road, stalling out or blowing up your engine. If you time it right, you can actually get a speed boost to hurtle down the road. You’ll be able to use your Traffic Checking skills to cause accidents and block roads, which is actually a key tactic in this mode. In place of the numerous icons scattered along a track, every crash stage features more junctions, levels and crash opportunities. Speaking of crashes, you’ll have the opportunity to cause more vehicular carnage thanks to the ability to earn multiple crashbreakers, which can be augmented by pounding on a button to maximize the explosion.
One of the things that the Burnout series has become famous for is imparting a sense of speed to the gameplay, and Revenge is no different. You really have an idea that you’re whipping past obstacles and environments at breakneck speed, and you know that when you actually hit something, the crash will be spectacular. While it might not seem any different than the previous title, collisions and damage modeling is much sharper than Takedown, and you’ll notice a lot more sparks flying from these vehicles along tight turns. This is particularly true when you send traffic flying by checking it out of your way and you see cars go tumbling along the road. What’s more, the cars you drive, while unlicensed, look phenomenal, and the minor cutscenes, such as the trophy sequences or signature takedowns really standout. While the Xbox version is visually stronger than the PS2 version, you’re not going to be disappointed with either version.
The sound of the title has also been bolstered, so you get a much stronger aural experience this time around. The sound of metal scraping and getting crushed against objects sounds particularly heavy and realistic. This time around however, you don’t have to deal with Stryker constantly wailing and getting on your nerves. The annoying DJ has been replaced by a much more mellow female voice that comments on the action sparsely, primarily as a way of instructing you on the new features of the game. Unlike Takedown, you can skip her directions if you want. Experienced players may wind up doing this to concentrate on the music of the game, which is quite large and much more diverse than the previous title. In fact, it’s pretty safe to say that this is one of the larger EA Trax soundtracks ever put together, if not the largest, with 41 assorted tracks.
You’ll also find a significant online presence that’s fun to play through and experience. You’ll be able to go up against five other players in a number of modes, including Crash Battle and Crash Party where you try to create large pileups at different junctions. There’s a number of team based and solo matches, and while you might expect to be thrown into the online pit against novices and experts alike, you’ll be glad to know that the game actively ranking your progress and tracking how well you do to unlock additional events and competitions for you to enter. While you can dedicate a day to improve your standings and release everything, you’ll appreciate the attempt made.
While the gameplay is just as good as the previous title, there are a couple of things that detract from the experience. In particular, some of the recent modifications make a lot of the game much easier. For instance, having the ability to check traffic can remove much more of the edge of your seat thrill you got from weaving back and forth between cars. Sure, you take a hit in your overall speed, but the amount of boost you get from doing it more than makes up for it. What’s more, you’ll wind up having somewhat of an unfair advantage over the computer in offline competition. The A.I. rarely, if ever, tries to check a car into you, meaning that you can launch these “neutral” projectiles at your opponents all day long. This isn’t too bad considering that there’s a certain amount of rubberbanding to the A.I. to keep races close, but it does simplify races significantly.
You’ll also discover that this checking ability basically renders the Traffic Attack mode ineffective, since simply tagging a car will net you boost. It isn’t too hard to track down and take out a machine on your side of the road and continue your run. Similarly, the crashbreaking system in regular races can be a little too effective now, allowing you to always keep races somewhat close thanks to the explosive power of the move. Time it just right and other cars won’t even have the option to pass you, meaning that you can hold onto your lead if you make a mistake or block other drivers.
The Crash mode also seems to be somewhat less based on skill and more on blind luck this time around. In Takedown, you could pick one of a few different lines and make your way towards the crash site based on the icons scattered around the track. Your success could essentially be measured by how well you collected these items and just when you smashed the cars. Now, the only way you can wrack up serious points is to check a car and hope that it collides with another vehicle to cause some destruction. Apart from that, it’s really a toss up as to whether or not your first impact will be effective enough because you have enough crashbreakers available to you to potentially correct a mistake you’ve made.
Burnout: Revenge does make a number of strides over its predecessor that makes it stand out as the most innovative title in the series. Unfortunately, some of the upgrades also winds up diluting the strength of the game just a bit. Revenge will still fulfill your need for speed, and if you can get over some of the lighter changes to the format, you’ll still find it an enjoyable game that will take over your PS2 or Xbox for quite some time. This is an easy recommendation for any racing fan or owner of the system.